Simpson students not safe from identity theft

by Shara Tibken

Freshman Whitney Hansen thought she’d simply lost her bank card. No big deal. She’d never really needed it anyway. She’d try to find it later.

What Hansen didn’t know was that someone else found the card with all of her bank account information. That person used her personal information to withdraw more than $3,000 from her checking account.

Hansen was a victim of identity theft. She never thought it could happen to her.

Identity theft may not seem like a threat, but it happens to students on campuses across the nation, including Simpson College.

“Identity theft is the fastest-growing crime in the United States, so it would be an issue on campuses,” said Susan Bulver, a consumer fraud investigator for the Iowa attorney’s general office.

“It would be an issue in the workplace. It would be an issue for the senior citizen who stays at home.”

Bulver said college students are just as vulnerable as the rest of the public.

“College students are no different than the average consumer,” Bulver said.

“Identity thieves prey on victims of opportunity. The harder you make it to get to your information, the more likely the thief will be to move on to the next easier target. There are millions of easier targets, so all you want to do is not be one of those.”

Identity thieves use the personal information of others, especially Social Security numbers, to open accounts and purchase merchandise using stolen credit cards, among many other possibilities.

“We’ve had a proliferated use of Social Security numbers, and that one number controls nearly every facet of your life,” Bulver said. “An identity thief compromises important bits of information about you such as your date of birth, your Social Security number, your mother’s maiden name and your bank or credit card account number and uses any of those key pieces of information about you so that he or she can touch nearly every facet of your life.”

To prevent identity theft, students are encouraged to avoid giving out their Social Security numbers while using the Internet or on checks and other identifying documents.

Chris Frerichs, director of security, said college students can take action to make sure their identity hasn’t been stolen.

“One of the ways to make sure that you haven’t been a victim, because a lot of times you can be a victim and not even know it for awhile, is to check your credit report,” said Frerichs. “Obviously, if someone steals your identity and they’re using a credit card, they’re not going to be paying any of that back.”